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NGOs and the Bretton Woods Institutions

This page analyzes the impact of World Bank funding and "partnerships" with NGOs. It also looks at NGOs' interactions with and reactions to the IMF.

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The Spring Meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank just ended in Washington DC and brought little promise of sunny days ahead for development. The different Communiqués released during the meetings contain more lip service than practical commitments, and non-binding visions where in fact immediate actions are needed. The IMF governance reform remains stalled; the World Bank’s new development targets ignore inequality; leveraging private finance remains the makeshift solution as public development finance is scarce in times of austerity; and, while the Spring Meetings signified a rhetorical shift away from the austerity dogma, there are few means to implement that shift.


NGOs Criticise World Bank’s New Lending Plan for Poorer Countries (October 21, 2011)

A new World Bank (WB)  proposal, “A New Instrument to Advance Development Effectiveness: Programme-for-Results Lending” (P4R), that seeks to set up a new way to lend money to developing countries has been heavily criticized by several NGOs who see it is as a potential disaster for indigenous peoples, the environment and human rights. The proposal would allow countries to sidestep 25 existing social and environmental safeguards that countries currently receiving aid from the WB must adhere to. NGOs are concerned that these loans might lead to an increase in forced evictions and human rights abuses, undermining policies that NGOs have long campaigned for. (Guardian)

Conflict of Interest? World Bank’s Role in Global Climate Fund Causes Outcry? (June 14, 2011)

A group of NGOs and developing countries warn against World Bank involvement in the design and management of the new Green Climate Fund (GCF). At the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, NGOs argued that the World Bank has an extensive track record in funding projects that ‘exacerbate’ rather than resolve climate change. World Bank participation in the GCF would constitute a ‘conflict of interest’ and might hinder legitimate attempts to address climate change issues. (Bretton Woods Project)

Arab Spring Wary of Economic Lifelines (May 31, 2011)

With the IMF and World Bank pledging over 5 billion dollars to Egypt and Tunisia, a group of NGOs and economists warn about the “fine print” of these support packages. Though the aid seems to be given for philanthropic motivations, these aid packages are often laced with hidden political agendas that might require Egypt and Tunisia to install policies or specific legislations that undermine the spirit of their uprisings. (Terraviva)

NGOs Call for IMF Head to Be Chosen by Double Majority (May 24, 2011)

Over 100 major NGOs are calling for a reform of the IMF electoral procedure in a joint letter sent to the IMF’s Board of Governors. The letter states that current electoral laws discriminate against developing countries in favour of western economies. The NGOs argue that the next managing director of the IMF should be approved by a majority of the member countries, rather than the current system that favors select western economies. (Terraviva)


World Bank - Civil Society Engagement (October 2009)

World Bank relations with civil society have grown over the past years. This report by the World Bank claims that the growth is due to a clear evidence of increasing mutual interests. It highlights examples of civil society involvement in bank-financed operations and explains that the involvement of civil society can help the demand for better accountability and governance at local level. But this rosy view would not be shared by many NGOs who are sharply critical of the Bank and see it buying "partners" with lots of money. (World Bank)

European NGOs Meet to Prepare for the World Bank and IMF Meeting in Istanbul (September 10, 2009)

EuroIFInet, a network of European NGOs monitoring the World Bank and IMF, met last week to present their response to the financial crisis. The network reported that the International Financial Institutions' lack of financial regulation caused a financial crisis that has had a severe impact on the poorest countries in the world. NGOs claimed that World Bank funded projects in developing countries do more harm than good. (Eurodad)



African Civil Society Group Speak out on Implementation of World Bank Projects (October 21, 2008)

The World Bank invited some NGOs to take part in briefings in Washington to directly express their concerns to officials from both the World Bank and governments. But, some NGOs question what impact these discussions really have and argue the World Bank needs to engage with NGOs in the field to a much greater extent instead of imposing strict conditions on poor countries. (Voice of America)

Role of Civil Society in Reclaiming National Space (August 29, 2008)

Since the 1980s, NGOs have played an active role in raising awareness about the negative effects of the Washington Consensus. But few NGOs are critically assessing the IMF, World Bank and OECD's new "consensus" on "aid effectiveness." This article urges NGOs to recognize that the new consensus will continue to allow the international financial institutions to impose their ideas on poor countries. (South Centre)



Accountability in Complex Organizations: World Bank Responses to Civil Society (October 2007)

For decades, NGOs have criticized the World Bank for primarily representing the interests of rich countries and obstructing development in poor countries. This Harvard Business School paper argues that NGO campaigns have succeeded in bringing some accountability to the Bank. For example, citizens can now report World Bank violations of social and environmental safeguards to a complaint mechanism. But, the report calls the reforms "cosmetic" as the Bank has not reformed its core structures and policies.



Transparency Begins at Home, WB-IMF Told (September 17, 2006)

Ahead of the 2006 annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Singapore, a group of NGOs has initiated a campaign to increase accountability in the financial institutions. Aiming to bring the institutions under greater scrutiny, the NGOs' proposed "global charter" challenges the IMF and World Bank to provide more public access to their documents. Such a move would also legitimize demands for more openness from national governments. (Inter Press Service)

UK 'Threat' to World Bank Brings a Little Cheer (September 15, 2006)

The British Department for International Development (DFID) will withhold £50 (US $95) million from the World Bank unless it stops demanding that poor countries privatize public services and liberalize trade as conditions for aid and loans. British NGOs would prefer DFID withhold all money to the Bank, rather than just a tiny fraction of the £1,3 (US $2,4) billion pledged over the next three years. But the NGOs welcome the move as a "partial victory" for their advocacy to have the British government put pressure on the World Bank to change its policy. (Inter Press Service)

NGOs Boycott World Bank Meetings (September 14, 2006)

In a show of solidarity with fellow activists barred from entering Singapore, over 80 NGOs have decided to boycott the official IMF-World Bank annual meetings. Despite World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz's criticism of the ban, the groups lay most of the blame on the financial institutions. NGO representatives charge that the IMF and the World Bank chose Singapore as the venue for the 2006 meetings fully aware of the host government's restrictive laws against public gatherings. The ban on protests robs NGOs of a powerful tool for opposing policies that will arise at the meetings. (Guardian)

IMF-WB Exposed by Ban on NGOs at Singapore Meet (September 9, 2006)

Under alleged pressure from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, Indonesian police have banned grassroots and international NGOs from participating in the International People's Forum, a conference held parallel to the annual meeting of the financial institutions. Authorities cite security concerns for the ban, after local groups with close ties to business reportedly "expressed fears that the [Forum] will undermine investments on their island." While criticizing regional governments for putting "business interests" ahead of development, NGO representatives perceive the restriction as a way for the IMF and World Bank to silence their loudest critics. (Inter Press Service)

How the World Bank's Energy Framework Sells the Climate and Poor People Short (September 2006)

Examining the World Bank's "Investment Framework for Clean Energy and Development", nine non-governmental organizations reveal that the bank invests US$2-3 billion a year in greenhouse gas-producing fossil fuel projects, yet only five percent of its overall energy financing in renewable energy projects. The bank thereby fails "to reap the double dividend" of fighting both poverty and climate change with locally available renewable energy technologies. "Public funding for fossil fuels is a complete anachronism," and this report insists on a complete halt to the practice. Countries must redirect energy financing into renewable technologies through an "appropriate multilateral framework," and not the Western dominated World Bank. (Friends of the Earth)

Can We Reform the International Finance Institutions? (August 18, 2006)

Ahead of the September 2006 meetings of the Bretton Woods Institutions (BWIs), this piece from CIVICUS encourages people to join the global mobilization for demanding profound reform of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. With the IMF suffering from a legitimacy and budget crisis "unparalleled in its 62 years of existence," few question that its current operation must change. The author calls for the BWIs to stop imposing policy conditions that work against the Millennium Development Goals, to start prioritizing labor rights over "investor's rights," and to make the governing structures of the institutions more equitable and open.

European CSO Open Statement on Governance Reform of the IMF (July 17, 2006)

In anticipation of the September 2006 Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group, more than 35 European NGOs strongly urge their governments to join forces in demanding fundamental reform of IMF governance. The NGOs call for a combination of the present weighted-voting with a one-country one-vote system. They further demand a more open leadership selection that allows for greater geographical diversity in top positions and publication of IMF board meeting transcripts. (Bretton Woods Project)



A Call for Participatory Decision Making: World Bank-Civil Society Engagement (April 14, 2005)

While the World Bank expresses its commitment to civil society engagement, this paper points out that many NGOs see the institution's conduct as nothing more than a public relations exercise. This paper proposes a framework for ensuring effective NGO participation in all stages of decision-making, and includes a set of recommendations for improving general Bank practices. It seems unlikely, however, that the World Bank will change its course and address these NGO recommendations. (Civil Society Members of World Bank-Civil Society Joint Facilitation Committee)

Should Civil Society Engage With World Governing Institutions? (February 17, 2005)

Engagement between NGOs and local, national and international institutions ranges from conscious non-participation to active advocacy, and NGOs must respect what methods their colleagues choose, says head CIVICUS officer Kumi Naidoo. In this appeal, Naidoo outlines his organization's push for participation at the World Bank and asks other NGOs to join the calls for transparency and accountability at all political levels. (Pambazuka)


Structural Adjustment Participatory Review International Network (SAPRIN)

SAPRIN is a worldwide network of NGOs that oppose structural adjustment programs. It works with the World Bank and citizens' groups in 12-15 countries to determine the impact of World Bank's programs.

Bretton Woods Project

Bretton Woods Project was established by a network of UK NGOs to monitor the World Bank and IMF. The Project's reports and bimonthly bulletin aim to clarify current issues and provide links to campaigners and researchers worldwide.

CEE Bankwatch Network

"The CEE Bankwatch Network's mission is to prevent environmentally and socially harmful impacts of international development finance, and to promote alternative solutions and public participation."


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